Moving On

Moving On

The best book I've ever read on social media (in fact, the only useful book I've ever read about social media) is Digital Minimalism by Cal Newport. He eschews the attention-grabbing '10 Reasons Why I, Someone Who Has Quit Social Media, Am A Far Superior Person Than You' kind of writing that I find really smug and annoying. Especially when it's written by someone who blatantly doesn't need the leverage of social media in the first place because they have, you know, already established careers and reputations.

Sorry. I got a bit off track there. Instead, Newport advocates for digital minimalism, the act of using digital platforms in a thoughtful, measured way. The message that stuck with me was the idea of questioning yourself every time you sign up for a new social media account: does this platform align with my morals, and is it contributing to the kind of life I want to live?

I've been thinking about this recently. My social media use hasn't reflected my values recently, and it hasn't contributed to the life I want to live. And with that in mind, it's time for me to leave Substack.

It worries me, you know. This slow creep of making allowances for Nazis.

The impact of Nazi ideology shaped part of my childhood, actually. My Granddad fought in WWII, and even after he and my Nan passed away, my parents were heavily involved with the Hastings branch of the Canadian Veteran's Association. This meant going along to a lot of social events for the elderly. I enjoyed this. I loved the people, the way they gave me sweets and told me interesting stories and called me 'poppet'. I was the little one in the group, the one they could all fuss over.

Every year we would attend Remembrance Sunday services in serious and slightly unfriendly churches. My Dad would often carry the standard, smart in his suit with special white gloves. I would sit on cold, hard pews, stare at my shoes (my fanciest and most uncomfortable ones), and try to think about something else. Pokemon, probably, or which member of S Club 7 would be most open to me joining the band if I wrote them a really persuasive letter.

But I do remember the unbearable sadness, which still somehow managed to permeate my kid-pop bubble. They never told me stories about the war, any of them. Never went into any details. My Granddad didn't talk about it much either, not even to his children. All I knew was that he came back 'a changed man'.

I look back on it now and I can't imagine what the veterans were thinking in that church alongside me. They knew the cost of the war. Sitting alongside this awful collective grief didn't mess me up or make me sad as a kid, but it did make me appreciate how much we do not want to do this ever again.

In case you don't know what I'm talking about, Substack has been in hot water recently. The Atlantic article Substack Has a Nazi Problem flagged up these issues back in November, but it only came to my attention last month, when a group of prominent Substack writers called on the leadership to take action against Nazi newsletters. To which they said - essentially - no. After a lot of outrage, they backtracked slightly and removed a small handful of newsletters that promoted white supremacist views. But they will, in general, allow Nazi content, as long as that content does not incite or promote violence.

We could talk forever about this, but I would like to make something extremely clear: for Substack to use the argument of free speech to excuse Nazi content on their platform is cowardly and incredibly disingenuous. Substack - who have, up until this point, provided a lovely and welcoming home for so many writers - should understand better than anyone the power of words.

The free speech argument annoys me because at no point in my lifetime has it been okay for someone to wander into a public space and start shouting about the benefits of white supremacy. It would be policed (literally, or by the public). That is the world I grew up in. Free speech has never meant 'you can say anything anywhere with no consequences'. And the fact is, Substack is allowing literal Nazis to make money on their platform, giving them an impetus to create content and gain more and more horrible little goblin followers. They allow that content to enter the algorithm and be promoted, giving them a reason to spew endless amounts of hateful bollocks for clicks and glory. And that's enough for me.

I'm sensitive to this stuff, not only because of all of those lovely old Canadian veterans I spent a good chunk of my childhood with, but because there are people I know and love who have had their whole ideologies changed (very much for the worse) by the power of the algorithm. To watch someone you love have their minds poisoned by the Joe Rogans of the world really sucks, to put it mildly.

We don't live in a perfect world now by any stretch of the imagination. It's obviously all going to shit. Almost everything that gives me comfort in my little bubble is built on some kind of inequality, from the phone I use to the social media accounts I have, and it's painful trying to untangle it all, to try to be a good person. But that doesn't mean you don't at least try to make decent decisions. Now more than ever, we need to take a firm and clear stand on what we absolutely won't tolerate.

I do not feel comfortable using a platform that is actively incentivizing Nazis to create content. I just don't. The leadership team at Substack are either happy to allow Nazi words to flourish under the watch, or they are fools. Either way, it's no longer my problem. Using Substack no longer aligns with my morals or what I want my life to look like, and so I have moved on.

Anyway! All this is to say I don't have a proper newsletter this week because I have been spending all my free time trying to migrate without giving up and just putting my whole head through a window instead. I've moved on to Ghost. According to Platformer, Ghost's CEO, John O'Nolan, has said they will remove pro-Nazi content. That's good enough for me at this point.

In terms of what it means for you, it doesn't really change much. If all has gone to plan, you'll get my emails as normal, and you won't need to resubscribe or do anything.

The one downside is that Substack had a chat function, which I really enjoyed using to catch up with people, and we had a nice thing going there. I don't see any way of doing that here, which is a slight problem, other than talking in the comments of each post.

I'll have a think about ways around this - maybe setting up a Discord, or something? - but in the meantime, you can mostly find me on BlueSky, which is my social media app of choice right now. (If you need a sign-up code, leave me a comment and I'll get in touch with you, I've got a few of them stacked up now.)

You can now find my newsletter at which I think is quite easy to remember. And now, if you're interested in finding other stuff by me, you can find it here or in the navigation bar above.

In terms of what's coming up on Side Quest, I'm quite excited. I've got some cool plans. My newsletter has been the thing that has kept the love of writing alive during my 'ah fuck, I can't do this anymore' moments, so I'm grateful for that. Hope you stick with me. <3